What is Fourth World

The fourth world refers to the most-underdeveloped regions in the world. The Fourth World is used to describe the most poverty stricken, and economically troubled parts of countries in the Third World. Unlike the first, second and third worlds, the fourth world does not have any political ties and is often based on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This area includes tribal and nomadic communities. They may be fully functional and self-surviving units, but based on their economical performance as a whole, they are considered fourth world status.


Fourth world nations can consist of those excluded from mainstream society. For example, the Aborginal tribes in South America or Australia are entirely self sufficient, but they do not participate in the global economy. From a global standpoint, these tribes are considered to be fourth world nations, but they are able to function free from any assistance from others. Fourth world nations do not contribute or consume anything on the global scale, and are unaffected by any global events.

Fourth world areas are not defined by political borders. In many cases, they are defined as nations without sovereign status, emphasizing instead the perceived non-recognition and exclusion of ethnically and religiously defined peoples from the politico-economic world system, such as the First Nations groups throughout North, Central and South America.

Origin of the 'Fourth World' Term

The term was first heard in Canada as a remark by Mbuto Milando, first secretary of the Tanzanian High Commission, in a conversation with George Manuel, Chief of the National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations). Milando stated that "When native peoples come into their own, on the basis of their own cultures and traditions, that will be the fourth world."

The term became synonymous with stateless, poor and marginal nations with the publication of Manuel's The Fourth World: An Indian Reality (1974). Since 1979, think tanks, such as the Center for World Indigenous Studies, have used the term to define the relationships between ancient, tribal, and non-industrial nations and modern political nation-states. After the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, communications and organizing among fourth world peoples accelerated in the form of international treaties between aboriginal nations for the purposes of trade, travel and security. In the Indian left movement, Dr. M. P. Parameswaran's ideas on the fourth world incited widespread debate, which eventually led to his expulsion from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 2004.